Two New York museums asked a court Friday to declare them the owners of two Picasso paintings that a Jewish scholar claims were the rightful property of a relative persecuted in Nazi Germany. The Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation said they took the step to fend off an expected lawsuit from Julius H. Schoeps, a German who has been waging a legal fight to recover artwork and property once owned by his great uncle. Schoeps demanded on Nov. 1 that the museums hand over both works, "Boy Leading a Horse," which is in MoMA's collection, and "Le Moulin de la Galette," in the Guggenheim's collection. MoMA Director Glenn D. Lowry and Guggenheim Foundation Director Thomas Krens said in a joint statement they are confident the paintings were not obtained under Nazi duress. "The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum take the issue of restitution very seriously," they said. "Evidence from our extensive research makes clear the museums' ownership of these works and also makes clear that Mr. Schoeps has no basis for his claim."